The other day a parishioner and I were speaking about how the holiday chaos seems much less this year. I have noticed how Advent seems much more peaceful, and there is a renewed interest in keeping the secularism and commercialism of Christmas contained. Of course, this type of observance of the holy seasons of Advent and Christmas must absolutely horrify the retailers. Those who wish to make a profit from the birth of Christ want us to buy lots of gifts for stuffing under the trees. The irony of this is that the message of a vulnerable Christ Child does not align well with big corporations making big profits. Such is not the type of Christmas that the Messiah came to deliver. God through the cross purchased the only gift we shall ever need - victory over death.
So what do we do as an alternative to the commercial hype of the season? I suggest two activities - help others and worship God. If you missed the opportunity to make a gift basket for needy seniors, perhaps you can bring donations for our efforts to help at-risk youth. If you would like to do something more hands-on, come to the Queen Emma Outreach Guild meeting this coming Saturday, December 13 at 9:30 am. The outreach guild plans all of our outreach efforts, and new volunteers are always needed. Your hands can become the hands of Christ reaching out to the most vulnerable in our society. Come and help plan this most important work.
Worshipping God is also key to observing a holy Advent and Christmas. One time, many years ago, a family told me that the holidays are such a busy time that they cannot make it to church. I gently challenged them that they had it all wrong. Christ was not born in Bethlehem so that we could enjoy the most perfect holiday parties. We are kidding ourselves if we think family gatherings are more important than worshipping the newborn King.
I find more and more that I enjoy attending worship for a counter-cultural reason. When the world tries to make Christmas into a secular and commercial affair, I find that going to an Advent Evensong or to Sunday Mass is my way of protesting the commercial mutation of the holy days. When stores try to lure me with their endless gimmicks, it feels great to turn my back on them and point my gaze on Jesus Christ through worship. Who knew that attending worship could be a protest movement against the frivolities of the season? It is a protest I really enjoy. It is an easy way for each of us to claim ownership of our rightful celebration of the Christ Child.
On this Third Sunday of Advent, the theme is once again John the Baptist calling us to mindfulness considering the coming of the Messiah. If John the Baptist were to live among us today, we would find his cries to be just as relevant as they were in the past. Much of what we do to prepare for the season of Christmas does not actually prepare us for the coming of Christ. It is the tender vulnerability of Christ that is to be our focus - not the might of the commercial Christmas economy. Rather than being about extravagant expenditures and endless little parties, it is about a God who loves to help the needy by becoming a vulnerable infant. This God is the reason for the truest celebrations and for the most holy worship.
Father Paul Lillie+